Lighthouse Relief is a non-profit organisation which provides long-term psychosocial support to asylum seekers in Ritsona Refugee Camp, mainland Greece, and to people arriving to the north shore of Lesvos island (Lesbos). Their mission is to provide a dignified, respectful and empowering humanitarian response, with a focus on supporting vulnerable groups such as women, children and youths.
They met in September 2015 as a small group of independent volunteers in a tiny fishing village on the northern eastern shore of Lesvos, where thousands of refugees were arriving every day in rubber dinghies. They quickly became one of the first organisations to offer coordination and structured emergency response to the area.
2015, most asylum seekers fleeing to Europe were single men. But by the following year the balance had shifted, with women and children (including unaccompanied minors) accounting for roughly 57% of asylum seekers. This came at the worst possible time, as in March 2016 Macedonia, Croatia and Slovenia – three of the countries that lie between Greece and the preferred refugee destinations in northern Europe – closed their borders. Around 50,000 refugees were left trapped in limbo in near-bankrupt Greece, often in unsafe and inhumane conditions.
In response the Mandala Trust was delighted to support the wonderful work of Lighthouse Relief in the Ritsona Refugee Camp, 50 miles north of the Greek capital, Athens. Inside the razor-wire surrounded perimeter, crumbling concrete buildings and open fields, long abandoned by the Greek military, were home to around 700 refugees.
Through an emergency appeal the Mandala Trust was able to support a child-friendly space run by independent volunteers and the refugee communities themselves, providing love, play, and a variety of educational activities for the children. A mother and baby centre was also established – a warm, clean and relaxed sanctuary where advice, essential supplies and targeted food distribution is provided. On a practical level, an industrial-sized fridge for the children’s milk, food items and medicines was also purchased.
Additional funds raised by a sponsored all-night meditation vigil held at Gaia House, a retreat centre in Devon, have been used to purchase children’s clothing, basic toiletries and other essential non-food items.